Sometimes clutter isn’t so easy for me to see. Even before my shift to simple living, I was an organized person with not really any stacks of papers or lots of knickknacks decorating the house. For me, clutter came in the form of items that were carefully filed, stored in clear, orderly bins, or stacked neatly in whatever closet they were filling. Out of sight, out of mind. But, also out of use, and that means one thing to me: clutter.
In some cases where the clutter isn’t obvious, I find myself working backwards. Instead of removing items I don’t use or need first, I remove everything I DO use and need out of the space, leaving me only with the actual clutter.
Spaces this works well in for me include-
Kitchen drawers that hold all of the spatulas, graters, random meat tenderizers and lots of wooden spoons. Also, this includes my dishtowel and hot pad drawer, for some reason we always have so many more than we use in there!
If my husband is around, I will also try to get him involved with what kitchen appliances we have that are essential. This can be difficult as we don’t always agree. I am still trying to get him to agree to getting rid of the pressure cooker and food processor, but he’s not ready, yet.
Paper file containers
I keep two small plastic paper file containers in which I file away documents I consider to be ‘essential to keep’ at the time. I try to go through it at least once a year, taking out the hard copy paperwork that is a must to keep. I almost always come away with a large stack of instruction books, expired return receipts, and a large amount of papers that need to be scanned then shredded.
At this point, most of what is in the file containers, or at least my goal, is that they will contain just copies of vital documents and current receipts for larger items, which doesn’t take up much space.
Under the bathroom sink.
My bathroom cupboard is generally organized, with nicely lined rows of bottles and extras that stretch to the back of the cupboard. The problem is I usually only use what is in the front of the row. The other items are ‘just in case’. Just in case what? I guess if I feel like putting that specific type of heat protector on my hair that day, or adding a special finishing serum?
I find that I really only use 2-3 products everyday on my hair, as well as very specific products on my face as well. Removing just those essentials that you use will make it easy to see the ‘hidden’ clutter you are keeping.
This is my family’s dumping ground for ‘to-do’ stuff. Muddy shoes that need to be cleaned, our donation piles; the broken lawnmower that needs to be fixed and extra soil after planting some herbs. Aside from being a dumping ground for procrastination, the garage also tends to collect non-essential items that we won’t even remember in a week. Off the top of my head, I have at least six bottles of interior car cleaner on one of the shelves that I purchased at a charity event, almost two years ago!
My mind can also see a rather large pile of old towels that haven’t been used for anything in who knows how long. If we remove the things we actually use out there, our camping equipment, Christmas décor and my husband’s tools, we could probably just hold a garage sale and get rid of the rest, and maybe even park both of the cars inside!
Those are a few of the hotspots for me, where it seems to be easier to work backwards and remove all of our essentials first, then discard or donate what is left. You may have different areas in your home that attract hidden clutter. Once you locate them, you can start identifying what is essential and what isn’t.
How do you identify the essentials?
I think we have the tendency to make a lot of items feel essential. Maybe you have been meaning to use something, or perhaps you forgot you had it, but now that you see it again, you just know you’ll use it. To get past the ‘feelings’ of decluttering, I ask myself a couple of specific questions, and depending on my HONEST answers, I keep as essential, or declutter.
Depending on the type of item, whether it is meant for seasonal or everyday use, my questions will look like this-
Have I used this in the past two weeks? (I only have two weeks of clothing, so this works for my closet also) If yes, I keep it as essential, or used. If no, it’s clutter to me.
Did I use this or display it during the last appropriate season? If yes, it’s a keeper, if no, it’s clutter.
For paperwork specifically, I ask myself if the paper is such that to benefit from it, I must have a hard copy. If the answer is no, I scan and shred.
Working backwards can be a refreshing change from the usual methods of decluttering the nonessentials first. It is also nice to see just how little you really need and use on a regular basis, increasing your motivation to be more intentional about new things brought into your home or kept long-term.
Have you ever done this? I’d love to hear about it in the comments area below!